A cataract is clouding or opacity of the lens inside the eye. Inside the eye, behind the coloured part (the iris) with a black hole in the middle (the pupil), is the lens. In a normal eye, this lens is clear. It helps focus light rays on to the back of the eye (the retina), which sends messages to the brain allowing us to see. When cataract develops, the lens becomes cloudy and prevents the light rays from passing through.
WHAT IS A CATARACT?
Cataracts normally develop very slowly. At first, the changes they make to your sight may be difficult to notice, but as they get worse you’ll start to notice symptoms such as:
- You feel like your glasses are dirty and need cleaning, even when they don’t.
- Your sight is misty and cloudy.
- You’re more sensitive to light – bright sunlight or car headlamps may glare more.
- Everything looks a little more washed out than it should be.
- Your optometrist (also known as an optician) will be able to perform a full eye health check and confirm whether cataracts are present in either, or both, of your eyes and refer you to a hospital.
No. But often they develop in both eyes either at the same time or one after the other with a gap between.
Yes. Most cataracts are age-related, but other examples include congenital (present at birth), drug induced (steroids), and traumatic (injury to the eye).
Cataracts will not usually damage your eyes, but you may find that the cloudiness of your vision, caused by the cataract, may start to make it difficult for you to see and carry out your normal daily activities. There aren’t any medicines or drops that can remove cataracts – surgery is the only way to treat them. Cataract surgery (which is a relatively straightforward procedure) is the most common operation performed today in the UK, with about 350,000 surgeries performed each year.
The decision to have surgery should not be based solely on your eye test (visual acuity) results. You may have other personal reasons for deciding to have surgery, such as your daily activities, hobbies and interests.
If you have any other questions about cataracts, do get in touch